Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Raise the Rent

Edited: Please note that this is not intended to be a post about mental illness. It is a post about letting outside critical voices in. I take mental health issues very seriously, and would never imply that serious struggles with depression or other mental illness can be dealt with simply deciding not to feel that way.

You have a space that is yours and yours alone. It's the one behind your eyes, between your ears, smashed into a relatively small, gloopy mess of gray matter but able to extend beyond yourself, beyond your life, into the very universe. It can absorb anything it is presented with. It can learn to think and speak in other languages--math, art, storytelling, movement--and it can learn how to think outside of itself.

You sometimes rent that space out to other people for fun things, like music or movies or books or opinions, things that in their own way expand the space and make room for new ways to decorate it.

But occasionally something slips in, destructive, seeping, something that collapses your space in around itself until it is small and huddled, looking inward instead of outward.

These aren't renters so much as squatters. They sneak in when you aren't paying attention, and then they stay, refusing to leave, sneering at your attempts to reason with them. You feel powerless and small, realizing that this space you thought was yours is so easy to violate.

The voices dominating the space, ringing around in it, are not your own, but that makes them all the more powerful, louder still. And the very worst ones, the cruelest and hardest to ignore, sometimes sound just like you.

Kick them the crap out.

There are no eviction laws for your head, no waiting periods, no termination notices. If a voice takes a space in your head and fills you with ugliness or doubt or pain--no matter what the source of that voice is--TAKE BACK THAT SPACE. Banish that voice forever. You don't have to let it live there. If you need help, don't be afraid or ashamed to get it.

I think we forget how much permission we give to those voices in our heads, how sometimes we even seek them out. We invite them in, we waive our pre-qualification form, we discount the rent. We ask them to sit down for tea, and we know--we know--how we will feel as they slowly begin to poison the tea, smash our prettiest service set, and tear down our inner spaces until everything we've built feels small and ugly and worthless.

Yet we invite them in time and again. Why do we do that?

In the new year, take stock of the space in your head. Decide which areas need emptying, which ones need redecorating, which ones delight you to dwell in.


And remember: that space is yours. Raise the rent on it. You're worth it.

14 comments:

Laini Taylor said...

Kiersten, can YOU come into my head for a while and write my book for me? Thank you. There are cookies.
:-)

Whirlochre said...

This is your best blog post since the clockwork chicken, and precisely what I need to hear right now.

Time to add "felicitous phenomenon" to your list of credentials...

Anthony said...

Well said!

Tamara Epps said...

While I completely understand this post (unfortunately more than I wish I did), I also know that it isn't as easy as kicking out the voices. Just because you know you should get rid of the voices, doesn't mean that we are always able to. This post, while very well written, makes me feel the opposite of what you intend simply because I know that I can't kick them out even though I have tried time and time again. Depression isn't always because we choose it or choose not to kick out the voices - it isn't our fault and your post kind of implies that it is (even though I know you probably didn't realise this as you wrote it). I'm sorry to put such a downer on such a beautiful post, but I can't sit silent as people believe that I choose to be depressed.

Kiersten White said...

Tamara, I absolutely understand that, and it's why I put in the line about if you need help getting rid of the voices, you should never be afraid or ashamed to get it. I firmly believe in therapy and medication as treatment options, and hate that there is any sort of social stigma attached to them. They are medical treatments of medical disorders.

Additionally, I am sorry that you read this as a post about depression. That was not my intention. I take depression and issues of mental health very seriously and personally. This was a post about letting outside voices determine your sense of self-worth, which I think a lot of creative people struggle with.

Amber said...

Fantastically written! I didn't think about how much I won't act because I'm afraid of what someone else will say. That's definitely voices in the head! :)

rockinlibrarian said...

I read this post-- and retweeted it-- before you added the "edit" at the beginning, and I want you to know that I DO struggle with depression and those horrible voices and am well too aware that it's not a matter of simply choosing to not let them speak. But your post made me smile. It's still useful. It's affirmations, and even though affirmations can't deal with the voices single-handedly, they're still powerful, and still something I need to tell myself and hear from other people. It's also always good to reinforce the idea that those voices are interlopers-- not yours, not anybody's who really means anything-- they're just LIES. Thank you for this positivity. It was lovely.

Megs said...

Thank you. I needed to hear (read) that today. :)

Makayla Anderson said...

The negative voices in my head are what keeps me in check. They're the ones that wont sugarcoat anything, they tell me how it is. They remind me to keep reality reasonable, they keep me from looking like an idiot.

Tess Baggins said...

Thank you for writing this. I needed to read it today. It changed my outlook on some things.

Kate said...

Very well written, beautiful. Great advice. Thank you. :D

IAmBored said...

Holy crap this is the best piece of advice i have ever received. thank you so much

Jillian Schmidt said...

I love this sentiment, and I love the extended metaphor even more. It's such a helpful image to have in my brain when those negative voices come around, or even just when I start filling the space with 'renters' who aren't really contributing or uplifting or meaningful. Thank you.

Ryan Smith said...

This was a haunting post for me. I've had some issues in the past similar to this, and there are times when I feel like the bad voices are the only voices rocking around in my hand. And, there are days when I'm negative thought free, and feel the best I can.

Thank you for posting this :)

Ryan